If you were to try to sum up the Backbone Performance Coaching Philosophy in one word, that word would be "Holistic". It is our belief that cycling coaching isn't just about creating a training plan. A true coach develops an individualized, periodized, goal-specific, location-specific, achievable training plan for each athlete, but they also adjust the training when there are changes in physiological markers, weather conditions, availability of time, fatigue or athlete feedback. A holistic coach also works with athletes on race/event strategy and tactics. They work with athletes on bike handling, skills and efficiency. They work work with bike fit to provide a seamless transition between the rider and the machine. They work with athletes to plan their on and off the bike nutrition for health, performance, weight maintenance and recovery. They develop strength training plans that allow athletes to correct imbalances, avoid injuries, improve power, efficiency and comfort on the bike. They help athletes develop strategies to maximize their recovery time. They help athletes select the equipment and clothing most appropriate for their needs. They provide psychological/mental coaching and help athletes find a good balance between cycling and life. They work to keep athletes prevent and treat injury and illness.
If you open a bottle of water and turn it upside down, the time it takes to empty will be determined by the size of the neck of that bottle and other design changes won't do anything to change the flow rate. All competitive athletes want to improve their performance, though they may differ in how they define performance. For one reason or another, many athletes do not have a coach. Instead they read books and articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts and solicit advice from other athletes. The problem with this approach is that all of this information can quickly become overwhelming. Some athletes and coaches have pushed the "marginal gains" model, which essentially says that if you try to incorporate every little bit of good advice into your training, they will be additive. Frankly speaking, we believe that's a bunch of BS. This is not to say that small, incremental changes can't be useful, only that athletes are better focusing on the areas that actually limit their performance... their bottlenecks.
Identifying your individual bottlenecks is not quite as simple as determining your weaknesses. To give a few examples:
- Just because you feel that you could lose weight doesn't mean that you would perform better if you were lighter.
- Your sprint power may be low, but if you're not positioning yourself properly, or if you're exhausted before the end of the race, you might not even be giving yourself a chance
- If you seem to get injured every time you put in a good training block, the problem most likely is not that you aren't doing enough volume of intensity, it's that your body isn't able to handle that training load.
Once bottlenecks are identified, figuring out what to do about them is the easy part.
Q: Do you prescribe workouts by power, heart rate, perceived exertion or something else?
A: All of the above. Generally speaking, I prescribe lower intensity (Endurance, Tempo) workouts based primarily on heart rate, moderate to high intensity (Threshold, VO2 Max, Anaerobic Capacity) workouts based on power and submaximal-maximal intensity (Attack, Sprint) workouts based on perceived exertion. That said, i strongly advise that all athletes wear heart rate monitors and pay attention to their "sensations" during every workout.
Q: Do you prescribe workouts based on time, distance, TSS, or something else?
A: Most workouts are prescribed based on time, although the quality of the workout is always more important than meeting the exact time prescription for the workout. I also try to give TSS estimates for workouts in order to optimize fitness improvements, plan for "peaks" and avoid overtraining.
Q: How do you deliver your training plans?
A: I use the Training Peaks Software because it is powerful, dynamic, web-based and user-friendly. Training Peaks users can see their daily workouts on any web-enabled computer or their smart phone via the Training Peaks app. They can upload training files and write their workout feedback. Athletes can also track nutrition and body metrics (e.g. weight, body fat, sleep hours). Signature and Signature+ coaching packages include a Premium Training Peaks subscription, which allows for more detailed power analysis, tracking of personal bests, and automatic emails to your coach every time you update a workout (which facilitates individual workout analysis and feedback).
Q: Do you use different phases of training (Periodization)?
A: Absolutely. An athletes response to the same training will peak after 10-15 weeks, so different phases of training are necessary for every athlete (even those not "peaking" for specific events). Timing varies greatly from athlete to athlete, but most athletes plan on 2-3 "peak periods" per season.
Q: Do you require athletes to have a power meter?
A: No. People have been riding bikes since at least 1817, racing them since at least 1868. Power meters have only been commercially available since the early 1990's and reliable, affordable power meters have only been available since the early 2000's. The point is, it's certainly possible to train and race without a power meter. That said, I strongly recommend the use of power meters for the vast majority of athletes. Power meters are an incredible tool that allow coaches to prescribe workout better, track improvements, identify strengths and weaknesses, plan peaks, identify potential overtraining before it's too late, and give better feedback to riders even when they aren't observing their workouts in person. Still, there may be some athletes that are better off without a power meter. I believe that riders should learn how to ride before they learn how to train. To put it simply, brand new riders and racers should keep their heads up and pay attention to the road, the race and the people around them instead of staring at their computer all the time.
Q: How do you utilize power meter data?
A: I place power-meter data into one of two categories. The first is prescriptive usage. Simply put, the athlete has a target power output for a given interval. This is used in most mid to high intensity workouts as well as in some paced race efforts (most commonly in time trials). I examine these files after the fact to ensure that athletes completed the training as intended and work with them when they aren't able to achieve the targets. The second category is "descriptive"usage, where the athlete might not be looking at their computer during the workout or race, but I would examine the files afterwards to identify when their training parameters need to be updated, better identify individual limiters, optimize fitness buildup and prevent burnout.
Q: What is your philosophy on strength training?
A: I strongly believe that all cyclists benefit from strength training, but the volume, frequency and method depends on many factors, which include age, sex, history of injuries and the discipline(s) they compete in, as well as location and preferences. For some athletes, doing one or two 20 minute core workouts at home as well as the occasional on-the-bike strength workout may be sufficient. Others may be best served by hitting the gym three times per week year round. It's important for all athletes to complete some weight bearing activities in order to prevent bone degradation. Cycling movements are almost entirely conducted in the sagittal (front to back) plane, so it's important that cyclists increase strength in the frontal (side to side) and transverse (rotational) planes in order to prevent injuries related to muscular imbalances. Core strength is important for all cyclists to improve efficiency, power output and comfort on the bike and although core muscles are used in just about every type of cycling effort, cycling alone will not be enough to adequately build core strength. Finally, muscle degradation is accelerated in women and older athletes, so more intense and frequent strength training is necessary to prevent a loss of strength.
Although I recommend strength training to all athletes and provide strength training plans for them in their training, I look at weight training primarily as a way to prevent injuries, imbalances and discomfort rather than as a way to directly increase cycling performance.Typically, I recommend that most athletes under the age of 50 and without a history of injuries scale down their weight training during their season to make room for their on-the-bike training.
Q: Do you generally prescribe a high training volume or low training volume compared to other coaches/training plans?
A: It all depends on the individual athlete, their racing goals, how much time they have available to train and how well they can recover. Some athletes may feel fully fresh, even when training over 20 hours/week and others may not be able to handle even 5-6 hours of training. Either way, it's always more important to have good quality training than a high quantity of training. Too many athletes sacrifice quality in order to reach a desired volume, only to find that they risk injury, illness, over-training or just overall low-quality training. It's important for athletes to remember that training is only beneficial when enough recovery is possible to facilitate improvements. Additional training stress is at best non-productive and at worst harmful.
Q: How do you structure your weekly, monthly and yearly training cycles?
A: It's important that each athlete has different phases of training in their season. Each phase varies in specificity, volume, and intensity. The Preparation phase is non-specific, low-volume and low-intensity. Next, their Base phase is higher volume but generally low intensity and non-specific. The Build Phases are increasingly high-intensity and specific, but maintain moderate volume. Finally, the Taper phase is highly specific with low volume but some high intensity. I generally prescribe a 3 weeks on/1 week off monthly cycle, although sometimes the recovery week acts more as an "overflow" week when athletes can make up for important missed workouts. For weekly cycles, I've found that most athletes respond best when they have 2 "mini-block" during the week. For example, they might have a 3-day mini block on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and a 2-day mini block on Saturday and Sunday. Normally the higher intensity workouts are prescribed when athletes are better rested (at the beginning of the mini-block).
Q: What type of test(s) do you use to measure progress and set training zones?
A: I use a combination of different test protocols. Blood lactate and VO2 lab tests can be extremely beneficial, but they can be expensive and test protocols can differ from lab to lab. 60-minute time trials can best approximate true Functional Threshold Power, but athletes require a good deal of training simply to complete the test and that training may not be
Q: Do you believe in polarized or sweet spot training?
Q: Do you believe in systems training or race-specific training?